(NaturalNews) You are what you eat and so is your offspring, suggests a telling new study on fertility out of Harvard University. Researchers there determined recently that men who regularly eat heavy portions of processed meat products such as chemical-laden bacon could be destroying the quantity and integrity of their sperm, which in turn could be reducing their ability to have children.
As reported by the U.K.'s Telegraph, the study reinforces the findings of previous ones on male reproductive health that have linked poor diet to fertility problems. But this latest analysis pins conventional meat products in particular as correlative agents in male reproductive problems, including lowered sperm counts and abnormal sperm shape.
For their research, Dr. Myriam Afeiche from the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and her colleagues looked at 156 men admitted to the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center in Boston. They collected semen samples from each of the men and analyzed them in conjunction with corresponding questionnaires on dietary habits.
After crunching the data, the team identified a strong association between higher processed meat consumption and lowered sperm counts. In other words, men who ate more bacon, hot dogs and other meat products lumped into the processed category were found to be more likely than other men to produce less sperm overall, and sperm of an abnormal shape and size.
According to the Telegraph, men who ate just a single slice of conventional bacon daily had 30 percent more normal sperm than men who ate higher quantities of processed meat daily. Even after adjusting for other influencing factors like age and body mass index (BMI), a definitive negative association between processed meat consumption and sperm quality was apparent.
"Processed meat was associated with lower sperm concentration and morphology," wrote Dr. Afeiche in an email to The Huffington Post about the study.
Higher fish consumption linked to improved reproductive function in men
On the flip side, not all meat was found to be harmful to men's health. The same study observed that fish consumption appears to have a positive effect on male fertility, actually helping to improve sperm quality and quantity. Dark meat fish like salmon, bluefish and tuna were found to increase overall sperm counts, while white meat fish like cod and halibut were associated with normally shaped sperm.
"The existing literature on diet in general and semen quality is scarce," added Dr. Afeiche to The Huffington Post, noting that this apparent correlation between meat consumption and poor semen quality does not necessarily imply causation. "We'll continue looking into this question including the possibility that it is not processed meats that is driving the association but what they are replacing."
It is also important to note that not all meats are processed, and not all meats are the same nutritionally. Meat derived from pastured, grass-fed animals raised in healthy, outdoor-based environments is a far cry from the hormone- and antibiotic-laced meat commonly sold in grocery stores, which is derived from feedlot-based animals fed genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and raised in confinement. The former is health-promoting, while the latter has repeatedly been linked to causing disease.
"Several studies suggest that grass-based diets elevate precursors for Vitamin A and E, as well as cancer fighting antioxidants such as glutathione (GT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity as compared to grain-fed contemporaries," explains a 2010 study on the benefits of grass-fed meat published in the Nutrition Journal. "Grass-based diets have been shown to enhance total conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) ... isomers, trans vaccenic acid (TVA) ... a precursor to CLA, and omega-3 ... FAs [fatty acids] on a [gram for gram] basis," it adds.